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In this world of advancing technology where texting, emailing and keeping up with social media are the communication methods of choice for practically all of us, you'd think the need to contact each other the old fashioned way, face-to-face, would be rapidly becoming obsolete. What a surprise to find that when sharing information, people still want to look each other in the eye and hear a real human voice. That explains why many people are discovering they really need to know the art of public speaking.
Even though a blast email and a slide program may be more efficient ways of sharing information with large numbers of people, the need to know how to stand in front of the room and speak to people in groups is exploding like a mushroom cloud. Why is this?
Recently I needed to ask for telephone help to access an account I hadn't used in awhile. I'd forgotten the entry sequence and just wanted a quick, two sentence reminder: "First you do this, then you do that. That's all there is to it." Unfortunately, that's not what I got.
For close to 15 agonizing minutes I sat there biting my nails and listening to the person on the other end of the phone repeat the same information at least twice even though I got it the first time. That was only the beginning.
You're an expert on classical literature who's been asked to join a panel on why 19th century women authors are relevant and influential to 21st century readers. Your premise is that these women of another age wrote about heroines who would fit quite naturally into our modern era with perhaps just a change of clothes and a chance to go to law school. You've prepared carefully, your bullet points are all in a row, and you've even planned ahead for any objections to your conclusions. All systems are go.
You're the next to last speaker, so you listen carefully to what the other panellists have to say. To your horror, one of the speakers ahead of you has chosen a similar point of view, even used the same examples, and said almost exactly what you were going to say! What are you going to do? You have just a few minutes to completely revamp your remarks so that you don't sound like a mimic, a trained parrot, or an unprepared copycat riding the coattails of the speaker who came before.
It doesn't seem to matter how well some folks know their subject, they still feel that writing down their thoughts ahead of time into a coherent message that an audience will appreciate is just too hard. Or maybe they just don't want to put in the time or effort.
What's the big deal about writing a speech? The truth is it's a skill you've been learning since you first went to school, even if you never took a speech class.
Have you heard the expression, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it"?
Many people who are reluctant to get up and speak fear the audience won't listen to them. They believe they're not witty, they can't tell a joke, and if they're not funny, nobody will pay attention. They believe they don't know enough about the subject and the audience will sense it and tune them out. Or worse, they fear the audience knows more about the topic than they do and will be sitting in judgment and finding them wanting.
All of these beliefs are false.
The secret to giving a speech worth listening to is not difficult or complicated. Simply ask yourself this question: "What is the great benefit the audience will receive from spending this time with me?"
Why do you need to speak in public to promote your business? You've got an interactive website, you can blog in your sleep and keep up with social media with one hand. You've even dropped some copy into traditional advertising media. The idea of speaking in public makes you sweat bullets, keeps you awake nights, upsets your digestion and turns you into that nasty old Grouch you promised yourself you'd never, ever be, so why do it?
If your product or service is so well known, so good it sells itself, you're off the hook. However, if you want to grow your business or move up several rungs on the corporate ladder, how can you ignore such a valuable marketing tool? Maybe you want to start a whole new company based on that invention your brother-in-law came up with that you think is dynamite. How will you spread the word and attract venture capital?